The Commissioners Court docket held a public listening to Tuesday on a contentious poll initiative to create a brand new emergency companies district overlay. After listening to from proponents and opponents alike, in the end the commissioners unanimously endorsed the referendum, which is able to seem on ballots this Could.
Because it stands, the petitioners – led by the Pflugerville Firefighters Affiliation – declare the realm is insufficiently served by the present district, ESD-2. Whereas the fireplace companies within the space are satisfactory, proponents declare a brand new district overlay, ESD-17, is important to offer ample emergency medical companies. If accepted by voters, the initiative will create a brand new district, with a corresponding tax enhance.
A property tax enhance of 6 cents per $100 valuation would generate $2.5 million yearly, sufficient for 3 ambulances and two paramedic squads.
“The members of the group and the firefighters initiated a petition again in August of 2020 to create ESD-17. Throughout that petition, we created greater than 4,700 signatures throughout the district,” mentioned Josh Stubblefield, president of the Pflugerville firefighters.
The poll initiative was struck down by the Pflugerville, Hutto and Spherical Rock metropolis councils, each in 2013 and in 2020 – these areas could be excluded from the service district. Final Thursday, Austin Metropolis Council consented to the initiative, becoming a member of Manor and Taylor.
Opponents of the trouble need extra time to contemplate the difficulty, rebutting the notion that ESD-2 is underfunded or underserved. They’ve known as for unbiased audits of the district and have contested the tax will increase the overlay would convey.
Susan Gazana, the Democratic precinct chair for Precinct 229 in Wells Department, spoke in favor of making the overlay.
“Please approve gadgets 1 and three to permit the residents of Wells Department to vote on the creation of emergency companies district 17, the medical overlay,” Gazana mentioned, stating that the Wells Department MUD Board of Administrators had additionally voted in favor of the overlay’s creation. “The district ought to have a voice in figuring out whether or not the medical overlay district is in the end created. I really consider it’s our proper to vote on this, and we ought to be given that chance.”
Melody Ryan, an area Pflugerville CPA and auditor, spoke out towards the proposal. “I oppose creating an overlay district to separate hearth and EMS companies and to double taxes. I urge you to disclaim the petition.”
She pointed to the truth that an overlay was proposed and shot down in 2013 and once more in 2020, by Pflugerville, Spherical Rock and Hutto. This reduces the scale of the overlay by 70 p.c, in accordance with Ryan.
“It doesn’t make sense to take away present companies to everybody to solely serve 30 p.c of the residents in a disjointed service space when there are extra viable choices,” Ryan mentioned.
Ryan furthered her case by stating income will increase within the district far outpaced inhabitants will increase, and can proceed to, in accordance with five-year projections. She asserted that in accordance with monetary statements from 2017, the district had $10.5 million in internet surplus and $18 million in money investments. This marked a 325 p.c enhance in money, in accordance with Ryan.
“ESD-2 can serve all residents with the present funding construction,” she mentioned, including, “Incomplete and defective assumptions of their forecasts have created incorrect info,” earlier than reaching the three-minute time restrict for audio system.
Pflugerville Metropolis Council Member David Rogers defined his metropolis’s place to the commissioners. “We’re involved with the shortage of reliability and transparency of among the projections.”
Rogers additionally famous that Pflugerville had employed an out of doors guide to evaluate the necessity for an overlay, and he raised considerations over widespread misconceptions surrounding the prices and finances of ESD-2. “It will be an undue rush to push this onto the poll in Could. We predict we’ve incomplete info, and fairly frankly, we’re involved there was inaccurate info intentionally pushed into public dialogue about this.”
A number of different Pflugerville Council members expressed related sentiments, calling for extra time to permit for unbiased audits earlier than Could.
After opponents and advocates had argued their circumstances, Commissioner Brigid Shea expressed assist for the poll initiative.
“I don’t assume it’s unreasonable,” Shea mentioned. “Whereas I respect the requests from Pflugerville Metropolis Council and others to delay motion to allow them to examine, their examine would solely cowl Pflugerville; it wouldn’t embrace town of Austin ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction), the Manor ETJ or the Taylor ETJ. And we legally can’t cease the state legislation clock to offer them extra time, when frankly, they’ve identified about this since 2013.”
“They’re not permitting any of their residents within the Pflugerville ETJ to actually have a say in it,” she added. “What they’re asking us to do shouldn’t be enable any of the opposite residents in any of the opposite jurisdictions outdoors Pflugerville and out of doors ETJ to have a say on it. I don’t assume that’s right.”
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